Political prize on offer to party who can ‘make Britain work for everyone’

5th Sep 2016

New polling and analysis by the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows that an opportunity has emerged for the political party which is thought to have the strongest programme for helping people on low incomes escape poverty.

When asked which political party is most committed to tackling poverty in the UK, 36% of voters said they didn’t know, the same number as who identified Labour as the political party as most committed to tackling poverty. 10% said the Conservatives, followed by UKIP (6%), the Greens (5%) and the Lib Dems (4%).

Research for JRF last week showed how people earning less than £20,000 a year, with lower qualifications and living in low-skilled areas were the driving force behind the vote to leave the European Union.

The polling comes as JRF launches its ‘Working Age Poverty Risk Index’ in English parliamentary constituencies. The poverty risk index scores constituencies from 0 to 10 (where 0 is the lowest risk and 10 the highest), and is calculated using a combination of out of work benefits and in work tax credit recipients of working age.

It shows the seats where people are most at risk of poverty, and where people are struggling in low paid work, with fuel bills and their ability to afford a local home to buy. 

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View the poverty risk index scores fullscreen.

On the steps of Downing Street, Theresa May said her premiership would ‘make Britain work for everyone’ and represent the interests of the many, not the privileged few. Tomorrow, JRF launches its strategy which will set out how the first generation of ‘Brexit children’ leave school in 2030 in a more prosperous country.

In the top 100 seats in the index:

  • Labour heartlands dominated the index. Liverpool Walton, Birmingham Hodge Hill, Nottingham North, Bradford West, Knowsley, Blackley and Broughton, Birkenhead, Blackpool South, Middlesbrough, Bootle and Bradford East score highest.
  • Features Labour-held marginal seats where the Conservatives came second and will target in 2020 to increase their majority, such as Halifax, Great Grimsby, Birmingham Northfield, Blackpool South, Bishop Auckland, Bolton North East. A swing of less than 10 per cent is required.
  • Marginal seats held by the Conservatives such as Blackpool North and Cleveleys, Peterborough, Telford, Torbay and Hastings and Rye feature among the 100 poorest. 
  • Conservative held marginal seats such as Boston and Skegness and South Thanet, where UKIP came second, feature in the 100 most deprived seats. UKIP-held Clacton is 42nd on the ranking. Factors such as the prevalence of low paid work and low levels of skills are key features in these areas
  • Safer Conservatives seats such as Pendle and Rochford and Southend East also feature.

The index highlights key election issues facing people in different parts of the country:

  • Beauty spots in the South West, such as Cornwall, The Cotswolds and Wiltshire, have high levels of people struggling with fuel poverty.
  • Commuter towns serving London and the South East have high numbers of people working in low paid jobs such as hospitality, admin and care – more than half of the people in seats such as Watford are low paid.
  • Swathes of the South East outside of London, such as Dorset, Oxfordshire, have the least affordable housing for people on low incomes.
  • Coastal areas, parts of the East Midlands and the West Midlands have high proportions of people lacking high-level skills.
  • Areas around Manchester, Liverpool, South Yorkshire and the North East have the highest numbers receiving out of work benefits.

The polling on public attitudes to poverty found:

  • People in Yorkshire and Humber, the North East, South West and East Midlands say they are most likely to struggle if they lost their jobs.
  • The public say the cost of living, low wages and the high cost of housing were the most important factors contributing to poverty in the UK.
  • Voters say building more affordable homes is the best answer to the problem, alongside reforming job centres.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of JRF, said:

“This polling shows over a third of people feel they do not know who is best placed to help the 13 million people living in poverty and struggling to make ends meet in modern Britain. The vote for Brexit showed far too many people were left behind for too long, with 58% of people earning less than £20,000 a year voted to leave the EU. Parties of all colours have failed to ensure prosperity and opportunity is shared across all parts of the country.

“From Conservative enclaves to Labour industrial heartlands, many people face insecurity and see their chances of building a better life stymied by the onset of low paid work, high costs and a lack of skills.

“From making work pay, to creating more and better jobs and helping people with the high cost of fuel and housing, this data shows poverty reaches all corner of Britain and the key issues the parties must get to grips with if they are to make Britain work for all.”